Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Smashwords Info from the San Francisco Writers Conference

Mark Coker of Smashwords has routinely been attending the San Francisco Writer's Conference, one of the most indie friendly conferences I've found. The only reason that I have attended is the cost. It is expensive, especially after you combine airfare and loding.

However, some of the presentations from it end up circulating. Mark Coker always posts his for sharing. So I am putting them out in a blog post to make sure everyone gets a chance to see them.

Most of the indie authors in our group work with Smashwords in some capacity. In the last year or so, there have been some ups and downs. Rapid growth in epublishing and at Smashwords has caused some growing pains. More and more I see indie authors moving away from using a distributor to uploading directly to every channel themselves. There are pluses and minuses to doing this. The biggest plus is receiving Net 60 payments instead of Quarterly ones from the distributor. Of course, compared to traditional practices of payment, quarterly isn't so bad. The biggest minus is that in uploading directly you no longer have a distributor minding your pubs while you write the next one. Those who move away end up hiring help or doing it all themselves.

For BEGINNERS, Smashwords makes things very easy and very inexpensive. The company keeps improving their processes all the time and they offer many tools to help you learn the epublishing process from scratch. I still use them as a distributor for some channels and I sell directly there in small quantites.  My favorite improvement this year is that Smashwords now accepts epub files that I make myself. Being a control freak who does her own formatting, I am very happy with this change.

The content in the slide presentations above is useful information. If you read the other articles on this blog, you will read about the many publishing mistakes we have made in our journeys, as well as what we did right that led to our success. Initially, I couldn't afford a professional editor, but I also waited a very long time to get one.  I wrote more poorly edited books and then finally found someone to help me make them better after 3 months of poor reviews and reader complaints. What I did right was pay for a professional cover artist from the beginning (cost was <$70), and I am convinced it was her covers that helped my popularity hang in there until the story was in good edited condition. Now those same titles sell in the thousands. It took two years for this to happen. Second month out with it, I sold 35. I started my journey with one published book and one free one. I put both up at the same time. FREE has definitely been my best marketing decision.

My point in sharing personal bits at the end of this article is to encourage you to look at Mark's presentations with a completely open mind to his suggestions. I dutifully followed his style guide and his marketing guide initially. Now in my third year of self-publishing, I do things a little differently, but I've made many mistakes and revised many things to find the process that worked best for me. If you simply don't know where to begin, the Smashwords documents are still the best way I have found get yourself started on your own self-publishing journey.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How we price things -- NPR Money Podcast

Behind every business movement that comes along are real people who are trying to meet the latest need of a perceived "customer". Authors are really no different. We often write books for "readers" who are no more visible to us than the characters in the stories we create. So it's no wonder we struggle to set a monetary value on our work. We can only base what we charge on our own experiences.

When I started self-publishing, I priced to be competitive with others in my genre. At the time, I didn't understand that I was pricing my new book to compete with the price of an established author's backlisted book, already several years old. While this has turned out okay for me, it might have been better had I understood the trend at the time.

The following NPR program brings up some very interesting ideas about what drives the prices and value of things, including ebooks. But don't stop listening after the ebook part. The discussion about the history of Legos is even more interesting in what it teaches about marketing success.

The Price of Things We Love

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pinterest--Hoarding without the Clutter

Social media is an amazing tool for writers. It allows us to promote our work, to cross promote with other authors, to connect with our readers and to bring our readers together so that they can connect with one another. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, the antiquated Myspace, and now Pinterest are ways for us to be more accessible to our readers and also for us to interact with our readers and become more to them than simply the name on the cover/thumbnail. But in this post, I want to specifically talk about Pinterest and how it can be utilized not just for interaction, but also for inspiration.

Pinterest is, for me, the internet version of a big, fat, glossy magazine. It’s like someone took Vogue, Cosmo, Southern Living, Veranda, GQ and a sexy dose of Men’s Health and combined them in one place. You can search by categories such as food, home, fashion, and about a dozen others. You can choose to view pins of only those pinners that you follow, or you can choose to see all pins in a totally random fashion. You can also search for specifics. For example, you go to the search box and type in Regency Fashion and you’ll find all of these pins of gorgeous gowns with empire waists and daring necklines. You may then repin that photo of a gown to your own board.

You can create boards for published works. You can also create boards for WIP’s. And as writers, inspiration often strikes in strange and wonderful ways. Suppose you happen upon a pin of something utterly fabulous that speaks to you, that urges you to tell a story, you can create a board for inspirations. The truth is you can create a board for anything. At this point, I’d need five large houses, a warehouse for a closet, and an eating disorder to actually do something with all of the things I have pinned. If your goal with Pinterest is to attract more followers, I recommend repinning recipes and men. Nothing lures women to you like good looking men and sinful chocolate. Memes are also a hot ticket item. If you can make them laugh, they’ll come back.

The steps to repin photos and create boards are fairly simple. If you can navigate Facebook, Pinterest will be easy. You can download a “pin it” button for your toolbar which will allow you to pin photos from other websites, blogs, etc., without having to go into Pinterest first. You can categorize your pin during this step also, so that it goes to the right board and it’s immediately organized. Also, mistakes are easy to fix. Say for example you repin a recipe of Dessert Crack to your Villains I’d like to Hang With board. Simply click on the pin, go to edit and then select the appropriate board. Easy Peasy. Creating boards and uploading pins from personal photos is also a very simple and self explanatory matter. It literally walks you through step by step.

What does Pinterest offer you that Facebook doesn’t? With Facebook, when a reader posts on your wall or sends you a message, there’s an obligation to respond in some way. This isn’t a bad thing, but as each of us attracts more and more readers, it does become a very time consuming thing. With Pinterest, there is no obligation to reciprocate. Someone likes your pin, maybe they repin your book cover to their “Books I want to Read” board. Or maybe to their, “Books so steamy they made my makeup melt” board. It’s done. One click, a couple of drop down boxes later and suddenly your book cover has been shared with every person who follows that reader on Pinterest. It is a much more visual experience than Facebook, and frankly less dramatic. While it hasn’t happened for me yet, I’ve noticed with some of the bigger authors that I follow on Facebook, they sometimes have to referee when things get out of hand with the back and forth comments.

One issue with Pinterest, and it’s not really an issue as much as a minor inconvenience, is that you have to be “invited” to join. It’s easier to join if you have Facebook, but it is not required. I would also caution that Pinterest is a huge time suck. It’s an enjoyable time suck, but still dangerous. You start out perfectly groomed and presentable looking and the next time you look up, you’ve gone all Tom Hanks in Castaway. Hours and sometimes whole days can be lost to Pinterest because we all like STUFF. We all have crafty urges, redecorating agendas, secret fashion yearnings, and an intense and abiding love of foods that taste good but treat us as bad as an ex boyfriend.

That is why Pinterest is dangerous. It’s everything you want in one place and it’s free. Use with caution!!!!! 

Post by Chasity Bowlin. Reprinted here with permission of the author.